Mainland Canada and Prince Edward Island have "pulled" each other closer with the construction of the Confederation Bridge, the long-awaited fixed link to New Brunswick and other regions of Canada. On May 31, 1997, Canada Post will issue a se tenant pair of domestic rate (45¢) commemorative stamps to mark the official opening of this great engineering achievement, the Western hemisphere's longest continuous marine span bridge.
To encourage PEI to enter Confederation, the new Dominion of Canada pledged that it would assume and defray all charges to Islanders for "efficient steam service for the conveyance of mails and passengers. winter and summer." As a result, the Northern Light entered service in 1876 as the first Canadian government steamer. Soon, however, it proved unable to deal with ice conditions. A bridge, or tunnel, many Islanders believed, would be the only solution. Over the years, other vessels crossed the Northumberland Strait, carrying cars and passengers to "the land cradled on the waves". However, none of these improvements put an end to the debate over a fixed link. In 1967, work began on a combination causeway-bridge but plans were abandoned two years later. Eighteen years later, the Government of Canada received three unsolicited proposals for a fixed link which resulted in a former call for tenders for a privately owned bridge or tunnel. On January 18, 1988, Islanders voted to replace the ferry system and the monumental process of bridge construction began in 1993.
Strait Crossing Development Incorporated, a Canadian consortium agreed to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the structure for 35 years, after which time it is to become Crown property. The taxpayers' cost for the bridge will be no more than that of the ferry service. The location of the bridge has its own unique challenges. In one of the windiest sites in Canada, it must withstand the push of ice floes driven by currents through the Northumberland Strait. A daunting challenge for the builder, the design required pushing Canadian technology to the forefront of cold ocean engineering.
There are two traffic lanes and a full emergency shoulder in each direction and predictions are that, in good weather, drivers will cross in 10 to 15 minutes. Closed-circuit video cameras will monitor traffic and there will be 24-hour snow and ice removal service. Viewed from either shore, the grey concrete structure rises 40 metres or 11 storeys above the water like a taut, scalloped high wire, altering the seascape forever. Built in an S-shape to eliminate any hypnotic effect a straight run might have on drivers, this world-class engineering wonder invites you to drive on over and explore the gently rolling dunes, red soil and legendary hospitality of the Islanders.
To capture the length and breadth of the bridge, Charles Burke and Jim Hudson, in their work for Canada Post, designed a three-part panoramic view viewed from the New Brunswick side. In the foreground, on the left-hand stamp, a lighthouse stands watch over the seemingly never-ending span of the bridge. A tab showing the bridge's middle arch joins the first stamp to the second. The low-lying hills of the garden province serve as backdrop for the entire strip.